Strong laws are vital to ending violence against women, but the long road to tackling this scourge begins with a change in attitudes, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro stressed today during a visit to Ethiopia.
“We need strong laws and we need to enforce them. But our first task is to change attitudes,” Ms. Migiro said in remarks to the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development in the capital, Addis Ababa.
“Attitudes are changing but we need to do better. We need to make sure that universal values prevail over societal norms,” she added.
She noted that a 2005 study showed that over 80 per cent of Ethiopian women and 50 per cent of Ethiopian men believe that beating one’s wife could be justified under certain circumstances.
“This is absolutely false and dangerous,” said Ms. Migiro. “There is never any excuse for any form of abuse against any woman. Domestic violence is a crime and an abomination.”
Many Ethiopian women and girls still suffer harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and early marriage, she pointed out. “We have to speak out against these practices. Respect for culture is important but only as long as there is no harm. We cannot continue so-called traditions that cause pain and suffering.”
Ms. Migiro paid tribute to the brave women at the Association. “You are all inspiring. Your strength in the face of daunting circumstances proves the power of women to survive and thrive. You are demonstrating how important it is to provide services to victims of gender-based violence everywhere…
“This safe house is evidence of progress. But we have a long way to go to protect women and girls and to truly empower them,” she added.
The Deputy Secretary-General also highlighted the priority given to the global campaign to fight violence against women and girls by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in particular through his ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ campaign.
Launched by Mr. Ban in 2008, the campaign calls for all countries to put in place strong laws, action plans, preventive measures, data collection, and systematic efforts to address sexual violence by 2015.
Later this week the UN will observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Numerous events will be held worldwide in connection with the Day, observed annually on 25 November and which this year focuses on youth leadership in preventing and ending gender-based violence.